The difference between bad and great service

Das Keyboard Ultimate Model S

A few weeks ago, I bought a Das Keyboard from directcanada.com to add to my mechanical keyboards collection. I was so eager to get my hands on it that, in order to cut down on the waiting time, I  had it shipped to my work place. The keyboard arrived two days after I placed my order online. I immediately opened the box, pulled the keyboard out, hooked it up to my PC, and started to type. Everything was perfect, the keys (Cherry MX Blue switches) felt wonderful and the sound they produced was very soothing. I was in love until…I had to use the semicolon key. For some reasons, that particular key was very different. Even though it did produce a click when pressed, the tactile bump was not very noticeable. Therefore, I had no other choice than to request an RMA (Return Merchandise Authorisation) and ship the keyboard back. Unfortunately, I had to pay for shipping again.

A few days later, I got an e-mail from directcanada.com telling me that they tested the keyboard and that they did not notice any difference. I called them and explained to the person on the phone why I returned the keyboard, once again. He kept repeating that the person who tested the keyboard could not find any problem with the semicolon key. I told him that I clearly mentioned in my RMA request that if one were to just press on the key slowly, one will not notice a big difference. However, if one were typing at a high speed, then one would notice the difference when one pressed on the semicolon key. He then told me the stupidest thing, “Sir, it’s perfectly normal for a keyboard to feel different when typing at a high speed.” I then asked him how he would explain that only one key felt different, to which he replied, “the tester did not find any problem with the key.”  I was so angry that I told him to just process my refund and to charge me for the 15% restocking fee because “I returned a perfectly working” product.

After that, I e-mailed Metadot, the OEM, and told them what happened. They quickly replied telling me not to agree to the restocking fee, if I had not agreed to that yet, and that they were willing to talk to their reseller. I replied back saying that I did not really have a choice since I had to ship the keyboard back and that I was too far from the reseller to go in person to show what I meant by the semicolon was defective. Directcanada is in Vancouver. Then came a big surprise. Metadot told me that, although they do not ship internationally, they would send me a free keyboard to make up for my bad experience. Now, this is what I call great service.

I was not looking for anything in particular when I wrote to Metadot. I just wanted to let them know that mechanical keyboard buyers, in most cases, know their stuffs. When they decide to buy a particular keyboard, they have usually read a lot about it, about it’s switches, its controller, etc. And when they report a problem, the problem exists in 99.99% of the time. Therefore, telling us that the problem does not exist when it DOES exists (I had someone else tried the keyboard as well) is like an insult.

Credit to Metadot though for making the right move. It’s a win-win situation.

Update 1 November 2010

I received my Das Keyboard Model S today and started typing a few words as soon as I got home from picking it up from the UPS depot. All the keys worked as they should and the typing experience was very very pleasant. I can see this keyboard becoming one of my favourite ones if not my favourite. It has everything I like in a keyboard: blue Cherry MX switches which are plate mounted. Two keyboards, both equipped with blue Cherry MX switches, will feel different if in one the switches are plate-mounted whereas in the other they are PCB-mounted. It is my current keyboard at work for the time being.

11 Responses to The difference between bad and great service

  1. Eddy Young says:

    A true keyboard lover. Looking for a replacement for my MS Natural Keyboard. Been looking at the Cherry-ies for some time. Highly recommended?

    Eddy.

  2. Patrick Ng says:

    @Eddy
    What I am going to say is based on my own experience and opinions, so please take what I am going to say with a grain of salt.

    I am a big fan of Cherry MX switches, therefore would highly recommend them. My favourite switch is the Cherry MX with blue stems. These switches will produce a click and is very tactile. Unfortunately, people around you may be annoyed by the click sound, especially if you are typing late at night. If noise level is a concerned, the next option in the Cherry line would be the Cherry MX with brown stems. Unfortunately, the Cherry MX brown switch is not like the (Cherry MX blue minus the click). The tactile “bump” is not as pronounced in the Cherry MX brown as it is in the Cherry MX blue. This does not mean, however, that the Cherry MX brown is a bad switch. If a user is moving from a rubber dome keyboard to a Cherry MX brown keyboard, the tactile “bump” would almost be unoticeable. But with time, the same user may learn to like the keyboard. It is a very light, yet springy switch. Because the keys would fire at about mid-way through the key travel, one does not need to apply the same amount of force when pressing the keys as one would on a rubber dome keyboard. This is because the rubber dome keyboards keys only fire when the keys are bottomed out. Less force means less noise.

    That being said, one can produce a lot of noise on a keyboard equipped with Cherry MX brown if one is applying a lot of force. And depending on the keyboard itself, the plastic against plastic noise can be loud. I have two keyboards equipped with such switches. A Compaq MX-11800 made by Cherry and a Filco. I can be pretty quiet on the Filco, but a bit less on the Compaq although both use the same switches. Also, Cherry switches can be either PCB-mounted or plate-mounted. Some people find the first one to be quieter, but in my case, I find that the opposite is true.

    I judge how loud a keyboard is by checking which one will cause Angelica to wake up. My “office” is next to her room. At the beginning, I could use a very loud keyboard without waking her up. She spent two weeks in an incubator and was therefore used to noise. I could even vacuum her room without her waking up. But over time, she started to get used to a relatively quieter environment and started to wake up if I was typing fast. I had to stop using any keyboard with either buckling spring (IBM Model M), Cherry MX Blue, or ALPS (original or copied). Fortunately, my Filco does not bother her (My Compaq does).

  3. Eddy Young says:

    Came across your videos on YouTube. I’m tempted by the Cherry G80-3000. What I need is a no-frill keyboard, and I may have to get two — one for the office, and another for home.

    Eddy.

  4. Patrick Ng says:

    I forgot to tell you about the videos. I shot them to share with other members of geekhack.org wanting to know what the keyboards look like and sound like.
    I love my G80-3000 although I cannot use it at home for the time being. I am, however, using one at the office. A few things you need to know about this keyboard. The keycaps may feel smaller for some reasons and slippery at the beginning as if they have a Teflon coat. But with time, they don’t feel that way. Also, the F and J keys don’t have a dot or a dash, but are scooped.

    Again, I like this keyboard a lot. The fact that this was the only keyboard for which I bought a spare tells you how much I like it. It is a no-frill keyboard as you put it: wired and no multimedia keys.

  5. Eddy Young says:

    Hi,

    I was about to order a Filco from The Keyboard Company for about £120, when I thought I should go to PC World and check what they had on offer first. I quite liked the keyboards on the MacBook Pro (old one), Sony VAIO, my Samsung Netbook, and the Dell Latitude at work, so thought that maybe I was more accustomed to scissor type switches.

    Anyway, I walked out of PC World with two PC Line slim keyboards for the grand total of £19. While I was there, I tried all the keyboards and found that none of the more expensive, and supposedly R&D’ed, models suited me. The Microsoft and Logitech were nice but there was always that one thing that bothered me with every single one I tried. For example, the spacebar on all of them had a different feel from the rest of the keys. In the end, I bought two of the PC Line (generic-ish brand here); one to use at home, and the other for the office.

    Interestingly, I had a KeySonic scissor type keyboard before but had to give it away because I could not get used to it. It required too much force to get over that first depression, and I was always aware of every single keystroke. The PC Line does not feel that way at all; actually, it feels just like the keyboard of the MacBook Pro.

    I will still save up for a Filco, though. I will also be keeping an eye for Model M at the local car booty.

    Eddy.

  6. Patrick Ng says:

    Among the rubber dome keyboards, the best one I’ve tried (don’t own one) is one from Keytronics. Even the geekhack.org members who usually don’t like rubber dome keyboards will admit that the Keytronics are good keyboards. It’s not easy to find THE keyboard that we like the best. It’s usually a trial and error process. If you can get a Model M for cheap, that would be great, although they are very very loud and need more force. I was in love with my Unicomp Model M, but then I started experimenting with lighter and lighter switches. Now, when I use the Model M again, I find it to be very tiring.

    That said, there are some people who will not use anything other than a Model M.

    Good Luck in your quest! You’ve been infected with the keyboard virus. Or is it a case where a dormant thing has just been awaken?

  7. Patrick Ng says:

    If you do get a Model M, don’t do what some have one on the net. Some people, wanting to lower the noise from the keys, have applied some silicone grease inside the springs. I tried that and the keyboard did not feel the same after. Now, I need to find some time to remove each keycap and each spring, remove the grease and then place them back. This is going to be a painful thing to do.

    As far as cleaning goes, you can try denture cleaning tablets for the keys and whitening toothpaste for the case.

    I think I have spent too much time learning about keyboards.

  8. Eddy Young says:

    No, I’m not really a keyboard fanatic. It just so happened that I was shopping for one when I came across your blog post.

    You remember I was complaining about the spacebar being hard to press back when I just bought the MS Natural Ergo? Well, the spacebar is even stiffer and slows me down when I am writing code. I have to consciously press it in a certain way for the keystroke to register, which puts extra pressure on my thumb. Also, I usually alternate between the right and left thumb for the spacebar, and I could not do that with the MS Natural Ergo.

    I am trying the two keyboards now. They feel slightly different despite being the same make, model, and from the same production batch. The nice thing is I can fit two of those on my keyboard tray: one for my Sony VAIO, and the othre for the netbook.

    Eddy.

  9. Patrick Ng says:

    I am trying the two keyboards now. They feel slightly different despite being the same make, model, and from the same production batch. The nice thing is I can fit two of those on my keyboard tray: one for my Sony VAIO, and the othre for the netbook.

    This is one of the main complaint about non-mechanical keyboards: lack of consistency. With mechanical keyboards, they typically feel the same, unless one of the switches is bad. Rubber dome keyboards have one advantage though. There are less parts in rubber dome keyboards which means there are less things that can go wrong.

    How do you like your netbook? I always thought of them to be very limited in terms of computing power although a combination of a desktop computer and a netwook is nice for those who rarely needs computing power for the rare times they are away from their desktop computers. This might be a good combination for me since I am at home 99% of the time, and when I away, I only need to check my e-mails and maybe browse the web and backup my pictures.

    By the way, why don’t you use Synergy (virtual KVM) instead of hooking up two keyboards?

  10. Eddy Young says:

    I usually run Synergy, but I hooked both keyboards up just so I could compare them and see which one I’ll take to the office.

    The netbook is fine for basic tasks, such as surfing, writing (including code), and watching videos. But, I won’t be using it for editing pictures. I like its small size.

    Speaking of backup, I have finally bought a 1.5 TB Toshiba for the sole purpose of backup. I have Windows 7 back up the files from the laptop and the netbook every week. Works a treat.

    Eddy.

  11. Patrick Ng says:

    I bought two 1 TB Western Digital external drives last year, but I have yet to implement what I want to implement. My goal is to have one copying the other and then stay off-site. I use SyncBack. It works like SuperDuper! but does not create a bootale drive though.
    Currently, I backup my MacBook regularly to a 250 GB external drive using SuperDuper! On my old Toshiba laptop, I mapped my MacBook user folder. Then, I use SyncBack to backup the files to one of the 1 TB drive. When I’m done, I use SyncBack to make a copy of the drive. On Sheron’s budget PC (which I just built), I have two 250 GB drives. The primary drive is backup onto the secondary drive. I need to review the whole process, but I just don’t have time for now.

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